HC Deb 20 March 1979 vol 964 cc1296-7
16. Mr. Robin F. Cook

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the test firing in February of a Polaris missile.

Mr. Mulley

On 20 February, HMS"Repulse"successfully completed a test firing of a Polaris missile at the Atlantic missile test range whilst submerged some 30 miles off shore. This was a routine firing to test HMS"Repulse"weapons system after her long refit at Rosyth and was in accordance with the long-established practice that, after such refits, our Polaris submarines carry out part of their work-up in the Cape Canaveral area.

Mr. Cook

Has project"Antelope"now been concluded? Did that project, with its test firing and nuclear tests, play any part in the replacement options to which my right hon. Friend referred earlier? Is my right hon. Friend aware of the danger that if he encourages his staff to go ahead exploring those options he will find that they have taken the replacement decision for him?

Mr. Mulley

I am not sure what was involved in project"Antelope ", which I believe was a code name used a long time ago, but I assure my hon. Friend that this was a routine firing after a refit. It is right that the weapons system should be tested after a refit. None of those test firings involved nuclear devices.

Mr. Churchill

Bearing in mind the Secretary of State's admission, in a parliamentary reply to me at the end of last week, that in the course of the past 18 months about 300 strategic warheads have been deployed by the Soviet Union against Western Europe in the form of over 100 SS-20 mobile intermediate range ballistic missiles, with a destructive potential equal to 15,000 Hiroshima bombs, does he believe that the capacity of this country to deploy a single Polaris submarine is adequate in the circumstances of this massive Soviet build-up?

Mr. Mulley

I have tried to explain to the hon. Gentleman on many occasions that we are members of an Alliance. The whole question of the defence of this country, as of all the members of the NATO Alliance, depends on the collective efforts of the alliance. It is totally wrong and misleading of the hon. Gentleman, on the one hand, constantly to state the armed strength of the Warsaw Pact, and, on the other, the national strength of the United Kingdom, as though any possibility of aggression in the future would involve the United Kingdom alone against the Soviet Union.